Hiring for jobs created by COVID-19

Front-line jobs are having a moment. COVID-19 hasn’t just upended the job market—it’s created new jobs and given new importance (and responsibilities) to existing ones. For instance, until three months ago, “temperature taker” and “contact tracer” weren’t common terms in the job vocabulary.  Now they are—they’re  jobs created by COVID-19.

However, the pandemic has also created a workplace in which receptionists and office managers are front-line employees for in-person businesses. Those roles now have new importance, and new responsibilities.

Roles such as administrative, receptionist, office manager and customer service representative are seeing boosts in job seeker searches, according to Monster data. Office and admin support positions remain in the top five categories posting new jobs on Monster.

Other roles are affected as well. Skilled labor occupations in transportation (CDL truck drivers, bus drivers, truck drivers, and catering delivery drivers) and custodians are seeing bumps.

“Finding people that provide the best fit for front-line workers is imperative right now,” says Robert Newland, CEO of HR consulting firm Newland Associates. Read on for front-line hiring advice:

Embrace behavioral interviewing

In the past, you may not have spent much time diving into the psyches of your customer service representatives, receptionists or delivery workers. But it’s important now to understand how your front-line workers would deal with uncomfortable situations. Behavioral interviewing is one way to get there.

“Ask them to tell you about a time when they dealt with angry parents, or an angry customer,” Varelas says. “What would they say to someone trying to enter an office without having their temperature taken?”

Varelas points out that in this context, people with fast food work experience would make exceptional front-line workers in offices and buildings. “They work under a lot of stress, they’re fast paced, they’re responsive, and they need to get things right,” she says.

But also consider a behavioral assessment

Some HR experts believe it’s hard to get a full sense of someone’s personality tendencies from an interview—especially now that many interviews are virtual. “People can fake it in an interview,” Newland says. “People can moderate their behavior profiles.”

His suggestion: Use a behavioral assessment validated for hiring, such as the Predictive Index Behavioral Assessment. It’s essentially a personality test that predicts cultural fit by identifying a person’s motivations and needs.

“We found it’s very quick and spot on,” Newland says. “Too many organizations go with their gut. That’s detrimental to organization performance, and in the case of front-line workers, there’s just so much risk.”

Emphasize safety

This may seem obvious, but it’s crucial that you hire people who can and will follow CDC and OSHA protocols as it pertains to cleanliness and sanitation.

“Not only is it important that customers can appreciate an organization’s commitment to [cleanliness] protocols, but there are also tremendous health risks if these protocols are breached,” Newland says. “These risks can land people in quarantine or in a hospital.”

Plus, a sick workforce means a loss of productivity or an added expense if you must hire temporary work while someone’s on sick leave.

Anticipate confrontations

One of the hurdles now is that front-line workers may be challenged by the public. In today’s climate, you must expect, prepare and train for those challenges, even in jobs that seem devoid of controversy.

“Who would anticipate that kids scooping ice cream were going to have conflict with customers?” says Elaine Varelas, managing partner at career management and consulting form Keystone Partners. “Now employers at every level are recognizing that their staff needs to be trained with how to deal with people who will create conflict about every aspect of the new protocols.”

Hire with an eye toward inclusion

Front line workers are often the first point of contact with an increasingly diverse populace, and they can immediately create a great or a poor experience for the people being served. Hire candidates who understand diversity and inclusion—and offer them some training as well.

“Too often, companies feel it is enough to provide managers with diversity training, when in reality it is even more important to provide it to front-line workers,” says Stan Kimer, president of Total Engagement Consulting by Kimer. “An example is focusing on doctors and nurses at hospitals and not the intake people at the front desk, or operators who answer the phone, or customer service reps who take initial calls before passing them on.”

Good diversity training includes a review of the many aspects of  workplace diversity, information on how different people communicate, and advice on how to respectfully interact with people different from yourself. “Even those with an open, accepting demeanor and good personalities do need training to understand that everyone has unconscious bias that has to be recognized the mitigated,” Kimer says.

Consider overstaffing

You may need more front-line people than you expect, for a few reasons: First, due to social distancing guidelines, you may need to stagger their schedules. Second, if someone gets sick, you’ll need backup help.

“Having extra hands for cleaning would allow for it to be done more often than before,” says Ethan Taub, CEO of loan site Loanry. “Hiring new receptionists would mean that we could have a shift system and allow for everyone to work from home in part until we are back to normal. Nearly all staff will be working on a shift pattern, so extra staff for these hands-on jobs allows for everyone to have the time that they need.”

It’s also smart to hire additional people for these needs because so much is unknown. “If you think, ultimately, you’ll need one nurse at the front of a building, organizations may hire two,” Varelas says. “Part of that is providing support for each other, and part is not being able to predict yet what this situation will look like.”

Need help hiring for jobs created by COVID-19?

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